At the beginning of this month I wrote an article outlining the individual records of the Barry Odom era. In those records lay a decent reason for Jim Sterk to fire Odom. Not a slam dunk reason, mind you, but a decent one. And as I found myself comparing Odom’s Missouri career to Gary Pinkel’s Missouri career I had another question: what did Pinkel’s first four years look like? So, dear reader, I went and found out. Let’s take a look!
Pretty similar seasons, all things considered. Barry was better at home but worse on the road, while Gary didn’t beat a single team with a winning record! Pinkel was better in one-score games, however. Interesting that both schedules featured the same amount of team in the SP+ Top 50.
Gary didn’t get to a bowl in season two, but Barry was able to do so with an easier schedule and a much better team. Neither Pinkel nor Odom beat a team with a winning record OR a ranked team in Year 2, and they also both only won a single game when the score was within one possession. It’s eerie how similar these two seasons were.
Gary and Barry had the same damn year, but in quite a bit different ways. 2018 should have been a 10-win season but against a tough schedule - featuring a whopping TEN teams in the SP+ Top 50 - Odom’s Tigers were super close to breaking through, losing 3 of 5 one-score games. Pinkel’s 2003 team barely improved over the 2002 squad, but only featured five teams in the SP+ Top 50.
Disappointing regression looks shockingly similar in both 2004 and 2019. Losing an early-season game against a G5 squad on the road? Check. One win in five games against SP+ Top 50? Check. 5-game losing streak to close out the year? Check. Winning a meaningless rivalry game in the end? Check. Not going to a bowl game? Checkity check!
So, let’s once again dive a little deeper into the collective 4-year records of both of these gentlemen:
Overall Record: Gary - 22-25 (.458) l Barry - 25-25 (.500)
In three fewer games Gary had three fewer wins, but essentially, the first four years of Pinkel and Odom were the same. Pinkel took over a team that had one bowl appearance in 14 years while Odom became head coach of a team in regression at a school with some tumultuous social issues. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which situation was worse, but in any case, neither situation was an optimal situation to take over.
Conference Record: Gary - 12-20 (.375) l Barry - 13-19 (.406)
Once again, eerily the same with one more win for Barry in a 32-game sample. Could you argue the Odom’s record was more impressive since he was doing this in the SEC rather than the Big XII? Maybe, but let’s hold on and answer that question once we get to record against winning teams and ranked teams.
Division Record: Gary - 6-14 (.300) l Barry - 8-16 (.333)
Two more win in four more opportunities for Barry, but the winning percentage in the division is basically the same. The difference being that Pinkel had to go up against Colorado, Kansas State, and Nebraska that were all still capable of finishing in the Top 15, whereas Barry was going against the Georgia Death Star and the crumbling remains of Florida and South Carolina.
Home Record: Gary - 14-10 (.583) l Barry - 18-10 (.643)
Odom ended up quite a bit better here from a win percentage standpoint but, again, super weird that they both lost 10 home games in their first four years.
Road Record: Gary - 6-14 (.300) l Barry - 7-13 (.350)
Both had 20 road games with Odom snagging one more win than Pinkel. One thing I’ve been constantly thinking during this exercise (so far) is how much closer these records would be if Odom didn’t beat Florida on the road in ‘18. Then he and Pinkel would have the same conference record and road record. WEIRD.
Record Against Ranked Teams: Gary - 1-11 (.083) l Barry - 1-9 (.100)
Pinkel had two more shots at ranked teams than Odom, but they still only had one victory in their first four years. Pinkel’s was a victory over 10th-ranked Nebraska at home to end THE STREAK while Odom’s was the aforementioned random beat down of #13 Florida in Gainesville.
Record Against Teams with Winning Records: Gary - 4-17 (.190) l Barry - 4-26 (.133)
Odom had NINE more games against teams with winning records but, just like Pinkel, won four of those games in the first four years. We finally have a category where Pinkel was better than Odom...but neither is great!
Record Against Power 5 Opponents: Gary - 14-22 (.389) l Barry - 15-23 (.394)
Once again this is basically the exact same record, with Barry recording one more win and one more loss in two more opportunities.
Record Against Group of 5 Opponents: Gary - 7-3 (.700) l Barry - 6-2 (.750)
One more win and one more loss for Pinkel, but Odom had the better winning percentage in this category...much like most of the categories listed on here.
Record In One-Score Games: Gary - 7-8 (.467) l Barry - 3-9 (.250)
This is the starkest difference between the two guys, one that ends up massively in Pinkel’s favor. This might be the one area where you could claim that Pinkel was a better head coach in his first four years at Missouri than Odom was. But, again, Pinkel had been a head coach for ten years by the time he ended up in Columbia; Odom was still figuring things out while on the job.
Record Against Teams Grouped by Final SP+ Rank
1-10: Gary: 0-8 (.000) l Barry: 1-7 (.125)
11-25: Gary: 0-4 (.000) l Barry: 0-5 (.000)
26-50: Gary: 4-7 (.364) l Barry: 7-7 (.500)
51-75: Gary: 4-5 (.444) l Barry: 7-3 (.700)
76-100: Gary: 8-1 (.889) l Barry: 3-2 (.600)
100+: Gary: 4-0 (1.000) l Barry: 3-1 (.750)
So, once again, Odom performed better than Pinkel in every category except games against the SP+ 76-100 and teams ranked 100th or worse.
I think you know my conclusion here. Odom’s four years were (slightly) better than Pinkel’s first four years, but Odom was fired and Pinkel was not.
Would Odom have turned the program around? Maybe. It’s an exercise in futility, but an interesting exercise nevertheless. Just like “what would the football team look like in 2020 if Pinkel was fired in 2004?”. To me, the on-the-field product wasn’t a reason for Odom to get fired but the messy drama behind the scenes certainly was a good reason to cut ties.
If you were hollerin’ for Barry to get fired in 2019, you were probably also hollerin’ for Gary to get fired at the end of the 2004 season. The difference is that Pinkel was not fired and proceeded to give Mizzou one of the best stretches of football since the 1960s while Odom is now the defensive coordinator at Arkansas.
The difference between Odom and Pinkel is that the guy who hired Pinkel stuck with him, even after Pinkel churned out a crap product, and gave him another chance. Odom, on the other hand, fought with his boss — who did not hire him— while churning out a crap product. And sometimes that’s the difference between getting fired and being immortalized.